By Imogen Blake
A primary school teacher has revealed how you can meal prep a week's worth of food in just 90 minutes.
Usually this process takes a few hours - but food blogger Hannah, from Oxford in the UK, has managed to find a way of taking only 90 minutes to cook her favourite healthy dishes every week before storing her meals in plastic containers in her fridge or freezer for the next five days.
By preparing a large batch of minced turkey, Hannah drastically reduces her cooking time as four out of five of her dinners use the meat. She also batch cooks chicken to use in three other meals.
Now, she has revealed exactly how she does it by sharing her typical weekly meal plan and some of her delicious-sounding healthy recipes.
The time to cook all the dishes in her weekly meal plan (right) for five lunches and dinners equates to only 90 minutes actual cooking time, excepting time for marinading.
It takes 45 minutes to prep all the meals individually, and then she cooks all her week's meals in the oven and on the hob at the same time, with the longest meal taking an extra 45 minutes to cook.
It adds up to 90 minutes in total of preparation and cooking time. She has the space in her oven because she only cooks small portions of each meal.
Hannah said: 'Meal prepping is great if you're looking to save time and money, and is perfect if you want a balanced diet packed with nutritious meals.
'People often shy away from meal prepping because they think it'll be too tricky, but it is in fact, far from it.
"I find that by meal prepping on Sunday night you can have it all ready for the rest of the week, and the only thing you need to do is heat it up."
She said that by making simple, but nutritious meals and using the same meat twice, meal prepping can be quick and easy.
And she added that apart from the raw ingredients, all you need is a big stack of plastic food storage containers to put the prepped meals in.
Hannah's favourite meal prepped recipes include delicious BBQ chicken and roasted sweet potato, turkey meatballs with tomato sauce and courgetti and Greek chicken bowls.
She manages to keep costs low by bulk-buying her meat from online retailer
MuscleFood.com and supplements it with store cupboard essentials and fresh vegetables.
Hannah said: "If you've planned exactly what you are going to cook and have all the food storage containers to hand, then it's really straightforward. The storage boxes will help with portion control too.
"And it's simple if you have little children too. Smaller portions mean one box can be shared between them."
She added: "Meal prepping is great for families and for anyone looking to get a little healthier. It's certainly the key to an easy, yet healthy lifestyle.
"The main thing to remember if you're just starting your meal prep journey is to be consistent in planning and avoid getting overwhelmed.
"If you are struggling to cook it all on Sunday, sometimes I find that it is easier to meal prep food on Sunday for Monday and Tuesday, then meal prep on Wednesday for Thursday and Friday.
"Hopefully with my top tips and recipes, you can feel encouraged to give it a go."
BBQ chicken and roast sweet potato
• 45 minutes to cook, 5 minutes to prep, two serves
2 raw chicken breasts,
1 head of broccoli, chopped
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 large red onion, diced
1. Preheat the oven to 170C.
2. Peel and chop the potatoes in to slices, place on to a lined tray, season and then pop in to the oven for 20 minutes.
3. Add the chicken breasts to the tray, as well as the broccoli, cover the chicken with BBQ sauce and pop back in to the oven for another 20 minutes.
4. Add to bowls and eat!
LUNCH: GREEK CHICKEN BOWLS
• 30 minutes to cook, 10 minutes to prep, three servings
• Greek chicken:
3 skinless chicken breasts, 25ml olive oil, 3 Tbsp garlic, minced (Note, adjust to preference)
25ml cup fresh lemon juice, 1 Tbs red wine vinegar, 1 Tbs dried oregano, 50g cup plain Greek yogurt, salt and pepper to taste
• Cucumber salad:
1 cucumber, sliced, 25ml lemon juice, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar, 1/2 Tbsp minced garlic, 1/2 tsp dried oregano
• Tzatziki sauce:
100g plain Greek yogurt, 1 cucumber finely diced, 1 Tbsp minced garlic, 1/2 Tbsp dill, or 1 Tbs fresh dill finely chopped
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp lemon zest, 1/2 tsp chopped fresh mint (optional), salt and pepper to taste
• The rest:
300g cooked brown rice
240g cherry tomatoes, halved
50g red onion slices
HANNAH'S TOP MEAL-PREP TIPS
Buy the right equipment
Plastic food storage containers are a must if you're going to start food prepping. Buy enough for every person you'll be feeding for every meal. If you have small children who don't need an adult sized portion, then they can share a tub. So if you're a family of mum, dad and two young children, you'll need three tubs for every meal you make.
Buying the raw ingredients
As you're cooking in bulk, why not buy in bulk too? This way you'll be saving cash and if you order from someone like MuscleFood.com who deliver to the door, then you're saving time too. Look for cheap deals for other ingredients too - for example, buying non-perishable items in catering sizes.
When to meal prep
Meal prep at a time to suit you and make sure you have nothing else planned or aren't expecting any visitors for the couple of hours you shut yourself away in the kitchen. A weekend is a good time so you're ready for the week ahead.
Think about how the meals will span out over the course of the week and think about how you can save time putting the meals together. For example, if you're having chicken five times over the week, then cook it all in one go and just add the accompaniments or sauces.
Take each recipe step by step
Do follow the recipe's you've picked out and don't be tempted to take short cuts. But remember if you can cook meat all in one go, then do. It will save you lots of time.
Where to store
Your meals can be stored in the fridge or the freezer providing your meat hasn't been frozen before. Remember to factor in when you'll be eating them - those for later in the week may be better off frozen.
Heating up the meals
This couldn't be easier. Simply pop in the microwave in the container for a couple of minutes and your delicious meal is ready to eat.